Friday, August 29, 2008

A few days in the BIIIIIIIIIIIG city...

Looks like we're going to be in a marina in Annapolis starting Monday (Labor Day). CatCo has arranged the vendors for our warranty work so we are planning to set out Monday morning for Jabin's Yacht Yard. The current plan is to return to Rock Hall on Thursday, but we'll have to wait and see what happens with the work. More later.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jellyfish, Stinky Heads, the Rock Hall Nazgul & Other Observations

OK, as painful as it may be to be stung by a jellyfish (which I haven't been yet), they look cool. Particularly to someone from the Midwest who has never seen one up close and in person. The surprise for me is, they're all over the place here - in the harbor, at the marina. And they're HUGE. Bigger than I would have expected anyway. I've seen a couple with bells the size of softballs. Photo shot off side of boat, uploaded 8-17. This one's bell was probably 4" in diameter.

Moving on. Marine heads stink. Bottom line. Brand new boat, freshly pumped out - it still stinks. We tried some environmentally sound holding tank deodorizer with limited to no success. After talking to friends (Kevin and Joe - see the pirate weekend photos on the main site), the only stuff that works when it's this hot out is the stuff with formaldehyde. Quoting Joe, "if it can pickle a body, it can pickle a turd." Brilliant. Thanks, Joe.
Along with the seagulls, which are abundant here (but nothing like in Manitowoc, WI), we have osprey & blue heron, among others. Now, I don't like birds. Kinda think they're gross. However, blue herons are pretty cool looking birds. One minor problem. Their call is awful. To further accentuate the issue, they've been known to hide under the dock along our .2 mile stretch to get out to the boat. When you walk above them, they take off with a scream reminiscent of a Peter Jackson Nazgul. Nearly scared the crap out of me a few times. The photo doesn't do it justice, but this bird has a wingspan of greater than 6 feet.

On high-tide. I would just like to say "JEEEEEZZZZZ" it's a long reach to get on the boat at high tide. According to the documentation, Mirasol's deck is 8' above the water line, so that makes the mid-ship step (about a foot below the deck) to get on about 3.5' high and 2.5' out from the dock (further when the wind is blowing her off the dock). Oh yeah, we can only get to the step on the side of the boat now because we're blocking our neighbors (very nice English couple - not going out for a couple more weeks) from getting out so that our mid-ship is over the finger dock. When we're pulled ahead where we should be, add a foot to the height of the first step up onto the boat. I'm 5'7". In either case, it's a bit of a leap. We bought a step-stool.

Rock Hall is nice. Very small & I'd be losing my mind without a car, but nice. Looks like we'll be in the Annapolis area next week for the warranty work we need done on the boat; sans car, but if we're in or near the city, who cares? Anyway, back to Rock Hall. Aside from the Nazgul, it's pretty peaceful. A nice dockage. I would recommend this marina (, by the way. We're a little bouncy being right at the mouth of the harbor with all the commercial/charter fishing traffic, but it's not too bad. The pavilion at the jetty has gas grills, picnic tables and rope lights at night. The bathrooms & showers on land are always clean. And Lori, the owner, is one of the nicest and most accommodating people I have ever met. We were delayed for a month and it was no problem to shift our reservation for a month. Then we showed up a few days early and that was also no problem. This is my first coastal marina experience, and all-in-all, a nice one. It's a bit of a hike into town for groceries (only beverages and ship store at the marina store). I would come back... not for 2 months without a car, though.

Quinn seems to be enjoying it here, although there are virtually no kids, except on weekends, and even then, hardly any his age. We'll be getting one of those "Kids On Board" flags at the next boat show. Anyway, there's a pool at the marina, a couple decent parks, and plenty new stuff to see & do. So we're doing our best to keep him entertained. He misses Abby very much and he's still saving the left side of his bed and his second pillow for her.

One last thing, mostly for Cara, we haven't bothered to hook up the TV in the 3 weeks since we've been here. I'm actually surprised at how little we miss it. We have watched Shrek a few times, but that's about it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not Enough Soap In the World

So, we've been docked a week. It seems like a long time to sit on a boat on a dock, but we've been BUSY. I imagine that most of you reading this are figuring we've been lallygagging around looking for things to keep us busy. Not the case! We've been toiling away in the hot August heat unpacking, stowing, organizing, re-organizing, you know - the usual mess you deal with after a move to a new home. Two days ago we finally got our cloths sorted out and put away - we had left that until last.

So it's Sunday morning and we've been anxious to get out and get some sailing in and we're ready to go. The weather is quite nice - 80 degrees F and a comfortable 10 - 15 knots of wind. We're all set to go... yet there's one last chore. The holding tanks are almost full and we need to get that taken care of.

For those of you not familiar with the specifics, boats have holding tanks to collect the sewage from the toilets. When they get full you need to "drop off the brown trout at the turd aquarium" (thanks John). This involves motoring over to the pump-out dock, tying up, unscrewing the cap on the deck that leads to the holding tank and stuffing the end of a 2 inch diameter hose with a rubber nozzle into the hole. The rubber end of the nozzle is supposed to give you enough of a seal to allow a pump on the other end of the hose to sluuuuuurrrrrrp the brown trout out of the holding tank and send it off to the the municipal sewer. It is a quick process and isn't USUALLY as gross as it might seem. When we're offshore we can just dump it to sea by turning a valve on the bottom of the tank inside the boat, but that's not possible in the Bay (or the Great Lakes).

We had a holding tank on our power boat so I was familiar with the process and had executed the "stuff and slurp" maneuver without incident on many occasions. So, with great confidence we untied from our dock and motored over to the pumpout station and docked without incident. (Ok, so I might have preferred to do this during a weekday when there weren't bunches of onlookers to view what was my second attempt to dock Mirasol, again with the wind blowing off the dock. Use your imagination and don't snicker too loudly - it's not nice.)

So there I was, all set to pump out the tanks and head for the Bay. The cap was unscrewed and the vacuum hose was stuffed into the hole. Now a quick turn of the valve on the hose and let the vacuum sluuuuurrrrp our brown trout off to the sewer. All very simple and tidy, right? Well, to my dismay, no. Not so tidy.

As it happened the vacuum on this particular pumpout station was powerful enough to suck an elephant through the hose. So, when I flipped the valve wide open, the contents of our holding tank shot up the tube between our holding tank and the access hole in the deck like the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Now, it's interesting to note that the tube between the holding tank and the deck access port is 4 inches in diameter. As I mentioned earlier, the vacuum hose is 2 inches in diameter. Those of you with a physics background may see the flaw in this arrangement...

When the Turd Tsunami slammed into the bottleneck of the vacuum hose which I had stuffed into the access port, it overwhelmed my efforts to hold it in place and shot out around the rubber gasket and sprayed yours truly up the leg, across the chest, and to my complete disgust, right in the face. Sadly, my mouth was NOT firmly shut.

I had a strong desire to throw up. Jump in the water. Run screaming down the dock to the marina shower. But no, as I had foolishly selected a weekend to pump out, there were a couple of other boats at the dock and I had an audience. Composure must be maintained! So, with a shudder and a grimace I let the turbo-powered vacuum complete it's job and focused on not swallowing and not vomiting. The nice young lady supervising the pumpout dock courteously noted that most people find it works better if you crack the valve open until the turds start flowing, and THEN open the valve wide.

Useful, if somewhat delinquent information.

I thanked her politely and asked if she could please pass me the water hose.

Once we had undocked and motored out into the Bay, I quickly rinsed my mouth with about 4 gallons of water and a shot of mouthwash, shed my fowled clothing and scrubbed my face, arms and legs. With soap.

LOTS of soap.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Two Years and Twenty Miles

Two years of planning, organizing, fantasizing, researching, explaining, worrying, packing and moving are over. We're standing on our sparkling new boat ready to cast off the lines for our maiden voyage. It's a bit of a stretch to call a 20 mile day-sail across the bay a "voyage", but to the three of us it was a big deal.

Mirasol was a long way from being ship shape, but we had to move her to our slip in Rock Hall and the weather was as favorable as it was going to get for several days. Jen let slip the dock lines and I eased Mirasol off our Annapolis dock. The wind was blowing 20-25 knots so we motored out of the close quarters of Spa Creek and into the Bay before raising the main.

It was "smooth sailing" the whole way. Early on, we got on the wrong side of a string of crab pots but Jen saw them in time and we back-tracked to go around. I and the rest of the crew were a bit anxious for the first hour or so, but by the time we cleared the Bay Bridge, we had all relaxed. It was a comfortable broad reach and we took it easy while we got familiarized: a reef in the main and no jib for most of the trip. Towards the end we raised the jib and let her stretch her legs. I was very pleased that with Mirasol loaded up with all our worldly possessions, she still pulled 8+ knots in 20 knots of wind and a reef in the main.
Jen navigated, I trimmed the sails and we split the helming and Quinn-watching between us. Quinn was very well behaved - sat right where we told him, even during the mayhem of the docking...

Well yes, then came the docking. This was my first attempt at docking Mirasol, and it was a bit intimidating. Mirasol is 42' long and 24' wide, and her salon roof is 10' above the waterline. That makes for a great deal of surface area for the 20 - 25 knot winds to push around. Then there is the "T" dock we had reserved. Well, it's more like an "L"dock, where our portion of the L is only about 10' long. The rest of the "dock" is a series of pilings we can tie off to. That's all fine and good if there is no wind, or the wind is blowing onto the dock, but as chance would have it for my first docking attempt, the wind was blowing 20 knots OFF the dock. Well, I'm pleased to report that we managed to dock without crashing, grounding, falling overside, spousal disharmony or fouling of the props. We had a few friendly neighbors standing on our little nub of a dock to catch dock lines and provide advice / commentary, and with skillful use of the throttles (read: crap, we're going to hit... ok, um, port full aft, starboard full forward... TURN, c'mon baby TURN!!!, oops, too FAR! starboard full aft, port full forward, STOP turning PLEEEEASE... whew, that was close... OK... damn wind's blowing us off again... port half forward... whoops, too far, starboard half forward, NO, that's not doing it... port full aft, there, now we have it... uh oh... etc.) we found ourselves safely and securely docked. NO PROBLEM!
Honey, which box has the RUM?!?!?!